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Adding Decorative Ink Lines to Your Mats

Decorative ink lines enhance the surface of the mat.

Decorative ink lines enhance the surface of the mat and direct the viewer's eye into the art.

Matting enhancements like decorative ink lines are distinguished from other creative matting techniques in that they involve enhancements to the surface of the mat rather than variations on cutting the window. They can stand alone or serve as launching points for even greater elaboration.

Decorative ink lines, for instance, are the basis for painted panels that involve coloring between the lines with watercolors or pastels.  Traditional French matting with its elegant combination of lines and washes is really just an outgrowth of basic ink lines. So competence with a range of surface designs requires, first, a mastery of putting down ink lines.

Measure down and make a small, light tick mark on the surface of the mat.

Figure 1: Measure down and make a small, light tick mark on the surface of the mat.

How to Add Decorative Ink Lines

The application of ink lines requires the use of a ruling pen and a straightedge. Most professional framers use a quality dual-nib inking pen for this purpose because the nibs can be adjusted to produce different thicknesses of lines and because the ink is permanent and non-fading. However, for casual work you can get by with an inexpensive fine-point felt-tip pen. The guide rail of your mat cutter can serve as your straightedge for this purpose.

Place a small tab of removable tape beside the tick mark.

Figure 2: Place a small tab of removable tape beside the tick mark.

Apply the ink lines before cutting the window. For best effect, place them about a quarter of the way inside the window borders from the edge of the mat’s window.  So if the window borders are 2″ wide, the ink lines would be at 1-¾”.

The ink lines are drawn from point-to-point between tick marks you place on the surface of the mat. Precise placement of the tick marks is essential. A tool called a corner marker can make this part of the procedure easier.

Start drawing the line on the tape

Figure 3: Start drawing the line on the tape. The pen should be moving when it contacts the mat.

Step-by-Step: Marking Decorative Lines

Step One: Place tick marks on the face of your mat. Measure down from the top edge of the matboard and in from the left edge, locating the point at which you want to begin the first line. Using a pencil, make a small, light tick mark (Figure 1).

Turn the mat a quarter turn and repeat the procedure, placing the tick mark for the end of your first line and the beginning of your second. Keep turning the mat until all four tick marks are down.

Keep the pen moving at a constant speed as you mark.

Step 4: Keep the pen moving at a constant speed as you mark.

Step Two: The real trick when applying ink lines is to avoid blotching when the pen first contacts or leaves the mat. Magic Tape™ by 3M provides the solution. Place a small tab of Magic Tape™ just below the bottom tick mark. Place it as close as possible to the tick mark (Figure 2). Place a second tab of Magic Tape™ above and against the top tick mark.

Step Three: Position the mat under the guide rail of your mat cutter and align the outside edge of the guide rail with the tick marks.

Peel up the tape.

Step 5: Peel up the tape. The two lines intersect precisely without blotching.

Step Four: Draw the first line. Start drawing the line on the tape (Figure 3). The pen should already be moving when it contacts the mat. Move the pen along the guide rail at a constant speed (Figure 4). Stop drawing the line on the tape at the opposite end. By starting and stopping on the tape, any blotching will occur on the tape.

Step Five: Lift the guide rail and peel up the tape (Figure 5). Your line begins and ends precisely at each end and intersects the adjoining lines without blotching.

Step Six: Repeat the procedure for the remaining three sides, beginning and ending each line in exact conjunction with the adjoining lines. Erase the tick marks. Cut the window in the mat.  You are finished.

Decorative ink lines nicely enhance the window of your mat (Figure 6).

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